Shelby Wong

Major: Piano Performance

Minor: Business Law

Graduation year: 2020

Hometown: Irvine, California

What was one of your favorite USC Thornton experiences?

My favorite Thornton experience was performing in the Disco Medley at the 2018 USC Trustees Conference. I participated in this event as a violinist, as one of the usual pop violinists had a schedule conflict. The conference was held at a resort in the Ojai Valley – the location and scenery were gorgeous! I had the incredible opportunity to work with Patrice Rushen, the head of the popular music department. She was so engaging and inspiring, and her disco arrangement was the best arrangement I’ve ever heard. Disco music is so much fun to perform! I was pleasantly surprised by the number of songs I recognized. During the performance, listening to Thornton singers nail their solos and playing along with the talented rhythm section filled me with a great sense of pride in our representation of our school. As a classical piano performance major, it was an extremely lucky set of occurrences that led me to this rare and spontaneous opportunity, but it’s ended up being my favorite Thornton experience ever!

What was your favorite USC GE class?

I am part of USC’s Thematic Option program, which boasts an interdisciplinary core curriculum that fulfills the majority of USC’s GE requirements. Thematic Option’s smaller, tight-knit classroom communities have led to many thought-provoking discussions, and overall has helped me learn about a great number of concepts that apply far beyond the scope of our daily lives. Although all of my TO classes have been very rewarding, my favorite class was Core 112 (the equivalent to WRIT 340), titled The Open Road: Travel in the American Imagination. In this 11 person class, we discussed different novels written about journey and self-discovery; some titles include Kerouac’s On the Road, Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, and Butler’s Parable of the Sower. We also discussed thought-provoking movies, such as Badlands, the Motorcycle Diaries, and Wild. This class brought out my love of travel and a newfound desire to go on road trips across America. Even with the heavy reading and writing workload, the class theme was extremely enjoyable and easy to write about, and I even had the opportunity to present my final paper at the annual Thematic Option Research Conference! TO remains one of my strongest recommendations to anyone interested in more challenging, yet rewarding, academics at USC.

What is your favorite thing about Los Angeles?

The opportunities! There is always something happening in Los Angeles. In my two years here, I have played a great number of gigs and performances that have occurred both on and off campus. My coolest gig opportunity was performing on the Warner Bros. Studio soundstage for a film composer conducting workshop! The great thing about being a Thornton student is that anyone in the LA area who needs a musician will contact USC first. Additionally, there are countless Thornton students who look for musicians to perform for their recitals or for their composition projects. Being at USC and in LA is the best place to form so many connections as an aspiring musician.

What is something you wish you knew when you were applying to college?

Check the requirements of the colleges you are applying to. Not all colleges will accept every AP class you take in high school. More often than not, you’ll end up repeating a lot of courses that you thought you would be able to test out of. Don’t stress yourself out unnecessarily and burn out in high school just because you decided to take the highest amount of AP classes possible. Use your time on other activities – maybe college researching, thinking about your future career path, clubs, or volunteering. You’ll be much happier and more prepared for college!

Where is your favorite place on campus?

The USC Village.

What was your favorite thing about being a student at the Thornton School?

My favorite thing about Thornton is that there are so many different degree levels offered here. There are DMAs, MMs, GCs, KCAs, Bachelors levels and so much more; some schools only offer undergrad, and other conservatories are graduate school exclusive. Although some of our classes are separated by year, there are other courses where you could be learning with people studying much higher degrees (an example would be Thornton Symphony, where freshmen can play with third-year DMAs in the same orchestra). As an undergrad myself, I find this exposure to more advanced, more experienced students in everyday class settings to be such an incredible learning opportunity.

Why did you choose the Thornton School?

I chose USC Thornton because it offered me everything I was looking for. The great thing about USC is that Thornton has the conservatory vibe, and yet it is part of a huge university with hundreds of other majors and minors. I can say with the utmost confidence that I am getting the highest possible level of music education, but my studies do not have to be limited to music. I can take GEs in astronomy, sociology, and history. I can declare a minor in business law. Even within Thornton, we have the opportunity to explore classes go beyond our own emphasis. I’ve been able to continue studies on violin, my secondary instrument, and am even trying viola lessons this semester! I could dabble in music industry, play chamber music, or even take a few lessons on jazz piano if I wished. Thornton – and USC – have given me so many opportunities to explore my interests, and I am so fortunate to study here!